Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘War’ Category

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

leave a comment »

It’s funny how memory works. I got a housecoat for Christmas, the first I’ve had in decades at least. (And how did I get to an age where I can say “decades at least?”) Putting it on this morning I suddenly remembered as a child I had a red housecoat. And I used to wear it and pretend I was a Redcoat, a British colonial era soldier. Something I haven’t thought about since I was a kid, but the memory was still buried there waiting for something to trigger it. I think I read once that smell was the best sense for triggering old memories, and a quick Internoodle search confirms it.

Speaking of Redcoats, 141 years ago today, over 700 of them had a really bad day. The famous Battle of Isandlwana, where an army of Zulu warriors surprised and overwhelmed a British force of over 1,000 regular and colonial troops. Warriors armed as seen above, vs trained British troops with modern rifles and cannons. It was the worst defeat of British forces to an indigenous force in history, over 1300 dead. Basically the British had wildly underestimated the Zulu’s capabilities, and had split their invading forces into a number of columns. And this particular column was more or less a reserve force, commanded by a guy who had no real combat creds. Who had set up camp without any thought that it might come under attack. So when the Zulu main army was spotted a few miles away, they had little time to set up proper defences before 20,000 guys with spears and a bad attitude showed up. This defeat ended the first British invasion of the Zulu Kingdom. They shipped an even bigger army south for the second invasion, that did the trick. Whew, can’t have independent African Kingdoms, it might give people the wrong idea. Brown people that is.

A few days ago was the anniversary, well, two anniversaries of the sinking of two British submarines. K-13 sank on 19 January 1917 and K-5 on 20 January 1920. The K-class submarines were an ill starred design, a number of them sank by accident killing hundreds of sailors, none was lost due to enemy action. Basically the K-class were big submarines designed to keep up with the battle fleet, the idea at the time being that submarines would take part in major surface warship battles. It was a bad idea that never worked well in practice. The feature of these subs that really got my attention was that they were 103 meters long (huge for a submarines of the day) but their maximum safe underwater depth was 60 meters. In other words if they dived too steeply, their bow would be at crush depth while their stern was still at the surface. The astute reader can guess why so many were lost accidentally.

In my continuing adult education program, I went to see Andrew Yang speak last night. I was impressed, in fact I may get a MATH hat. I already hung a MATH sign in my window. MATH is Yang’s thing: Make America Think Harder. Can’t argue with that, thinking appears to be a lost art in America. He makes a big deal about making giant corporations pay their taxes, because it’s insane that Fortune 400 companies get away with not paying any taxes. And he points out that giving money to poor and working class Americans and cradle-to-grave health care would be tremendous stimulants to the whole economy, not just the economy of the rich, the economy Washington has been stimulating for decades.

One thing he pointed out that really made me think, is that life expectancy has been dropping in the USA the past three years. The last time life expectancy dropped in the USA was over 100 years ago during the 1918 global flu pandemic which killed over 500,000 Americans. And no, life expectancy continues to climb in the rest of the developed world, can’t blame a global epidemic for this one. And if Trump was really doing the bang up job he claims he is, how does he account for this? How do his supporters account for this? And if it’s not Trump’s fault, what is he going to do to fix it? Snort. I’m not holding my breath.

And speaking of global pandemics, the Chinese Coronavirus continues to spread. It’s not time to panic yet, but it is getting a little worrisome. The ugly truth is that letting people travel all over the planet willy nilly is a really bad idea, and sooner or later it means that the next global pandemic will be completely out of control before we can do anything about it. Another one for the “We’re not really an intelligent species” file.

There’s still all sorts of stuff going on in the Middle East, but that’s for another day. Comments and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Zulu warriors in 1882. Credit: Unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law. It is from a book whose copyright has expired.)

Written by unitedcats

January 22, 2020 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Elections, History, Trump, War

IRAN, UPDATES, TRUMP, LIFE, SHEESH

leave a comment »

OK, Sunday night, Iran admitted their people accidentally shot down the airliner from Ukraine. Sadly not the first airliner accidentally shot down in a war zone, almost certainly not the last. The first was a Chinese DC-2 airliner shot down by Japan over China in 1938. (Image above, the Kweilin Incident.) The plane made a safe water landing in an attempt to escape, but the Japanese planes strafed it for an hour, so Japanese claims that the plane had “acted suspiciously” were not terribly credible. Big deal at the time, Japan’s image in the US suffered. The shoot down was likely an attempt to kill the Chinese president’s only son, but he had flown on another flight.

I literally just stumbled on Kweilin searching for the world’s first airliner shoot down. There are clear parallels to Trump’s recent targeted killing of an Iranian general. Japan was at least at war with China, Trump’s assasination, not so much. In any case, both were attacks on civilian targets under pretense of military necessity. Both were BS state extrajudicial killings. Maybe nothing will come of this, and it’s just another of America’s endless war scares with Iran. At the very least, it’s made me think.

Especially since I just read a great book about the Battle of Stalingrad, the largest battle in Earth’s history. The book made me realize the one great parallel between Trump and Hitler, the parallel from which all other parallels flow. In both cases, their rise to greatness was largely due to a happy combination of faith and circumstance. IE they were people whom history paved the way for, and they brilliantly took advantage of the opportunity. Neither of them was born to power, but they achieved it nonetheless. If one can’t give credit for that, you’re probably not a reader of my blog.

Moving on, when the German Sixth Army was surrounded and trapped at Stalingrad, Hitler was still a God to most Germans, including Germans who should have known better. And they just blithely assumed Hitler knew what he was doing, since so far his results had been spectacular. By the end of 1942 Hitler’s Nazi Empire stretched from France to North Africa to Stalingrad, deep in the heart of Russia. He was the greatest military genius of all time, what could go wrong?

The ugly truth was that Hitler had no freaking clue what to do, since the Russians hadn’t followed his playbook and collapsed. And the whole story and its ultimate horror for the German Sixth Army is a post or two for another day. Today, the parallel I’m pointing at is that Trump’s missile strike really does signal that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I don’t think the repercussions will be as ugly as Stalingrad, but I don’t see any good coming out of it.

So, here is what I wrote before Iran admitted their forces shot down the airliner:

“At least Trump isn’t a warmonger!” Technically true, and a wonderful example of damning someone with faint praise I suppose. So yeah, whole Iran thing is still a mess. An airliner from Ukraine possibly shot down a few hours after Iran’s missile strike on US bases. Trump is now claiming the Iranian general he killed was going to attack four US embassies. And killing him prevented these attacks. The scary thing is that lots of people will believe it, even though it makes no sense on multiple levels. Sigh.

So the airliner, likely shot down by accident by an over alert AA military unit. That’s easily the most likely event. There are other possibilities, all unlikely and all scary. Scary because anyone who would kill a plane full of innocent people on purpose is scary. Governments tend not to do that. There have been shoot downs of commercial airliners before. The one over Ukraine a few years back, and the USS Vincennex shot down an Iranian airliner by mistake over the Persian Gulf in 1998. The later incident seems fairly straightforward, the Ukraine one less so.

Kind of odd that this shoot down involved a Ukrainian airliner. I suspect clarity for us worms will be hard to get on this one. Iran is paranoid and secretive, with every reason to  be so, and the Trump administration plays fast and loose with the truth. Let’s hope things calm down, way too many people dead for wa war scare, God rest their souls. 

Back to the topic on hand, Trump isn’t a warmonger, but that’s not saying much. He’s certainly appointed plenty, given the Pentagon free rein, and his cancellation of the Iran nuclear deal and subsequent pressure on Iran got this all rolling. You talk to Trump though, the Iran deal was a bad deal, and Iran was going to use it as cover to acquire nuclear weapons. All of the other major powers on Earth were fine with it, including our allies. American exceptionalism on steroids.

So I finished this book about the Battle of Stalingrad. Fascinating on so many levels. One of which is one of the parallels between Trump and Hitler. One of the parallels with most (all?) leaders who make it big time into the history books. A lot of their early, if not all, of their success is too to a combination of fate and circumstance. And if that gets one too far, the clash with reality can be painful.  

And we’re back to Trump and Stalingrad parallels. 2019 was a hell of a year, both personally and globally. 80 years since 1939, the year Hitler’s invasion of Poland set the world on fire for the second time in a century. The few people alive today who still remember 1939 were children at the time.

What a time to be alive. Of course, that pretty much always goes with the “I’m freaking alive!” thing, but still. Many of the humans since the invention of civilization have lived gruelling lives of backbreaking labor on an inadequate diet. I’ve managed to avoid that for the most part due to a combination of smarts and privilege. Which is why I am able to write this nonsense. And because I didn’t toil harder, I’m a failure in some eyes.Go figure. Writing is hard work too, as is all art. Another blog for another day.

Have a great week everyone. God bless.

I wrote the above a few days ago. Then life intervened. I still think we may be on the run up to an ugly war, stuff is still happening. A lot of it absurd

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: DC-2 being salvaged after the Kweilin incident. Credit:No idea, got it from this fascinating site. Because of its age and origin, going with Public Domain under US copyright law. )

Written by unitedcats

January 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm

SO FAR SO GOOD, HAPPY TO BE WRONG, KNOCKING ON WOOD, etc.

leave a comment »

Well, last night it seemed pretty sure Trump’s war with Iran was a done deal, now looks like cooler heads may be prevailing. Granted we’re not out of the woods yet, but Trump seems to have taken Iran’s retaliation for Soleimani’s death in stride. Iran apparently warned ahead about their missile attacks, and took other precautions to avoid casualties. Hopefully satisfying their need to retaliate without escalating the situation any further.

In more good news, the Philippines has approved the planting of Golden Rice. This is a GMO variety of rice designed to have extra Vitamin A, as large parts of the poor rice growing areas of the world suffer from serious Vitamin A deficiencies. Killing and blinding enormous numbers of children every year. Anti-GMO activists are outraged, but for once science and common sense won out. And Golden Rice is free to use, it was developed purely as a humanitarian concern. Basically ant-GMO activists don’t have a leg to stand on, and have been reduced to claiming Golden Rice is some sort of Trojan Horse. An insidious  plot to save millions of children from death and blindness to show GMOs are safe. I can live with that plot. So will millions of children.

Seeing a lot of anti-windmill propaganda on Facebook. It’s somewhere between funny and infuriating. Funny because the things they come up with don’t pass the laugh test. Infuriating because people innocently share them and spread misinformation. No, wind power doesn’t mean one can’t watch TV unless the wind is blowing, that’s not how power grids work. And yes, old wind power plants go into landfills. Of course they are completely non-toxic, and the space they fill up is beyond inconsequential compared to the staggering amount of toxic waste the equivalent in coal powered plants produce. And the good doctor covers the bird issue, basically the number of birds they kill is minor, and by being green, wind power saves far more birds than it kills.

Slow news day. Slow day in history too. The Battle of New Orleans was on January 8, 1815. This was where andrew Jackson got his big start to fame, as news of his victory and news about the end of the war reached the East Coast about the same time, forever associating them in people’s minds. The fact that the war was already over when the battle was fought, well, details. It wasn’t much of a battle either, the British commander was in early stage Alzheimers. He basically marched his troops straight at Jackson’s well fortified troops, who obliged by blowing them away. In any event the war ended because the Napoleonic Wars had ended, so the British were no longer drafting sailors off of American ships. And the real reason for the war, an American fantasy about bringing Canada into the United States, had failed miserably. So neither side was inclined to keep fighting, and the war ended officially as a draw.

Desperate for a story, I checked out an article about a Polish village where no boys have been born in a decade. It came to the world’s attention when they sent an all girl team of junior firefighters to some national event. Fame and fortune have followed. Well, minor fame, no fortune. I was intrigued, what scientific mystery could account for this? Then I read the story. Over the past decade, all girls. Yes, a whole dozen of them. Sigh. What are the odds of flipping a coin a dozen times and getting all heads or tails? A few thousand to one. In other words, there’s no mystery here, just a statistical fluke. People get excited about the silliest things.

In personal news, walking last night I noticed Venus was particularly bright in the sky. I stopped to gaze at it, and there was a bright flash about a Moon’s diameter away from it. I thought it was a plane for a moment, but no, just one flash. Never saw anything like it before. All I can imagine is that it was a small shooting star coming straight at me, so I just saw a flash, not a streak. It was right after I heard the news about the Iranian missile strike, so it was a bit unnerving.

And speaking of which, waited all day, looks like the shooting war has been postponed. Phew. The Iranian response to Trump’s attack was proportionate, and Trump seems to have accepted it. Him and his administration lied about all sorts of stuff, but that just goes with the territory. If nothing else happens, I’ll write about other stuff. Using the cool picture I found (above) in hopes that I won’t need it to illustrate a post. Flaming optimism.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Painting, The Apotheosis of War 1871 Credit: Vasily Vereshchagin 1842-1904 Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 8, 2020 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Trump, War

TRUMP’S INTERNATIONAL SUCKER PUNCH, WHAT’S NEXT?

leave a comment »

Iraq_seaborne_crude_oil_exports_by_destination_in_2017_(31760972217)

Trump has threatened Iraq with terrible sanctions if they ask US forces to leave Iraq. Yes, America, our commitment to respecting democracy and sovereignty only extends to those who do our bidding. Nothing new here sadly. It should be pointed out, again, that sanctions hurt the people, especially poor people, of a nation first. So they are a form of collective punishment. And if anything they increase support for the hardliners.

Also, Iraq’s oil goes to a lot of countries, not sure how they will view sanctions. A lot also goes by pipeline through Turkey as well, the above chart is just oil tankers leaving through the Persian Gulf. We are talking the world’s 12th largest oil producer, so sanctions are going to hurt the world economy. I can’t see sanctions as being good for America either.

And it’s reported that Soleimani was on a diplomatic peace mission between Iran and Saudi Arabia. I don’t even know how to parse information like that, it certainly could be true. Neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia benefits if there’s a big war in the Persian Gulf. Nobody does. I don’t trust any particular news sources now. It goes without saying that anything the Trump administration or the Democrats say should be taken with an oil tanker full of salt.

Again, this raises the question, what is Trump trying to accomplish? I’m still not clear on that. I am not sure he is clear, though it’s clear that acting tough and bullying seem to be part of his plan. It’s not clear to me that he needs a distraction or is making some calculated move to get re-elected by being tough on Iran. It might energize his base, but it’s certainly not going to get him a lot of support on the general street. The majority of Americans are tired of our endless wars, Trump’s (now broken) promises to back off on them are part of the reason he got elected.

To simplify, Trump’s attack was basically outright war. Now we’re just seeing what happens next. The US started this, since at least the early fifties the US has been messing with Iran. This article has a factual timeline, even if the author’s attitude annoys me. Little countries don’t start wars with powerful countries, though powerful countries often claim their chosen victim started it. Germany claimed Poland attacked Germany in 1939. Russia claimed Finland attacked it shortly afterwards. The US and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. The list is endless.

There’s now a rumor the US ordered an Iraqi pullout, being denied now. Or it was some sort of draft letter. One wonders what Trump will do if Iraq formally requests our departure? Will we invade again? The Bush invasion of Iraq was one of the most botched invasions in history, I find it hard to imagine Trump’s team will do better. I’d wonder about Congress maybe doing something about this blatant disregard for the Constitution, but with the Senate in Trump’s control, I can’t see anything big there. As for Americans taking to the streets in millions, not yet.

Here’s a good article that covers stuff not seen on MSNBC or FOX. Here’s another one, long but interesting read. I can tell from the BBC and what is coming from my housemate’s room that the situation is still critical. I’m still out of sorts. Arms company stocks are up, and if my current reaction is common, beer sales are up. It’s not my imagination, Trump’s attack is a big deal and it’s likely to lead to bad things.

And if the Trumpers are right and somehow the US and the Middle East end up much better off because of this targeted killing I’ll eat my words. Stranger things have happened. That’s the beauty of reality, it’s not obligated to conform to our expectations. Keeps me guessing.

Your thoughts and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Iraq oil tanker oil graphic. Credit: From Wikipedia, Public Domain in one fashion or another.)

Written by unitedcats

January 6, 2020 at 6:47 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Trump, War

WAR DRUMS

with 2 comments

Well, so much for writing fun sciency or history posts. Stuff just keeps happening in Trump’s confrontation with Iran. I will write on and off during the day, updating when necessary. The first development is Trump threatening to attack 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliates for the US’s targeted killing of a popular Iranian general. Hundreds of thousands have turned out for his funeral. The general’s, Trump is still with us. And Iraq just voted to expel all US troops from Iraq. Gee, they don’t want any part of Trump’s war with Iran, and they certainly don’t want it fought in Iraq. Who would have guessed? And just now, Iran rolled back the 2015 nuclear deal.

I’m not sure what Trump is trying to accomplish by making threats. It’s bizarre that his airport attack is presented as some sort of defensive move or preventing a war. Now if anything happens, he has backed himself into a corner. And gave Iran cover for rolling back on the nuclear deal. Which isn’t going to make our allies happy. And how will Trump respond to that? It’s not like harsher sanctions are an option. Worse, anyone who wants war between the US and Iran just has to fake an Iranian backed terrorist attack. If it’s spectacular enough Trump will really be on the hot seat. I can’t see any good about a war with Iran, but some organizations and even some governments would. Certainly I’m seeing people saying Trump is Israel and Saudi Arabia’s puppet, there’s some truth to it for sure.

It should be pointed out that Iran is closely aligned with Russia and China, which again highlights the absurdity of “Trump is Putin’s puppet” codswallop. And the administration idea that general Soleimani was some sort of American murdering terrorist plotting to kill more Americans doesn’t seem to have any evidence backing it up. Staggering amounts of nonsense all over Facebook and the media. At least we seemed to have backed down on Trump’s threat to attack cultural sites.

Trump should be happy, he’s destroyed the 2015 Nuclear deal with Iran, one of Obama’s signature accomplishments. Hopefully that’s the worst of it, but sadly burning oil facilities and a worldwide economic jolt are still very much an unpleasant possibility. Bombing Iran isn’t going to fix anything, nor will it engender regime change in Iran. Not exactly sure what Trump is trying to accomplish, if he manages to bluster through this without making it worse he’ll get my approval.

I am just trying to get my thoughts down and published. Some of my friends are refusing to watch the news, it’s all pretty depressing now. I have no idea what’s going to happen now, anyone who says they do is deluding themselves. “Everyone is loyal to the nightmare of their choice” though, as the good colonel said in Heart of Darkness. This often leads to bad things. I hope it all blows over and I can go back to blogging about cats.

I’m reading a book about the Battle of Stalingrad, some light reading to distract me from the news. Hope everyone is having a great weekend. Thoughts and shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Digital art. Credit: Pixabay, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 5, 2020 at 5:03 pm

GENERAL SOLEIMANI’S DEATH, THE ARCHDUKE FERDINAND ASSASSINATION OF OUR DAY?

leave a comment »

Trump ordered the assasination (murder, killing, execution?) of a powerful and popular Iranian general, blowing him up at Baghdad’s international airport. I will be the first to admit, this event has upset me to no end. Even writing about it is hard. I’m also afraid that further developments might make what I write irrelevant even before I publish. My old friends will say I freak out easily, and I suppose they are right. It’s been a long time since anything freaked me out this much though, the American invasion of Iraq being the last time I was this upset. In both cases my gut was convinced that terrible things were going to follow. Well, my gut was right about Iraq, I can only hope it’s wrong this time. So in the hopes of making some sense of this all, my current thoughts on the topic, unorganized as they may be.

Reasons why I find this so upsetting. This could easily be the start of a big war. My comparison to the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand was not made flippantly. Ferdinand’s death set into motion a chain of events that quickly led to World War One; and while I think a world war is unlikely, no one thought Ferdinand’s death would lead to a catastrophic war either. And whether or not this attack leads to a wider war, it will radicalize a lot more people. The US doesn’t need more enemies, this is going to make America and Americans more hated in both Iraq and Iran, and to a greater and lesser extent throughout the Muslim world.

I am also horrified by how much support the idea of war with Iran is finding in Washington and the media. So far only Bernie Sanders is unequivocally condemning the idea of a war with Iran. I can’t see any good coming out of this attack, Trump has Palestinized Iraq now. By that I mean we are simply waging war with whoever we want inside Iraq, murdering our designated enemies at will. This is what Israel has done in its occupied territories for decades, and Iraq is a lot bigger than Israeli occupied Palestine. Israel has been whacking Palestinian leaders for decades, hasn’t brought peace any closer. And then the absurdity of Trump claiming that this utterly illegal act of war is about defending America.

Many people though are in fact believing the official narrative. “General Soleimani was a bad guy who killed hundreds of Americans, and whacking him was a great idea.” The Marvel comic book narrative. Even if it were true, Trump started the war with Iran when he pulled out of the nuclear agreement with them (which they were in complete compliance with) followed by devastating sanctions. Trump started this latest round of problems with Iran, and has now escalated it to outright war. Killing Soleimani isn’t going to make the war go away. “Revenge is not a strategy.”

I see a lot of memes to the effect that this attack is about Trump getting re-elected. I find that analysis facile. Trump’s been mindlessly hostile to Iran since before he got elected, this is just more of the same.  The bitter irony is that Trump partly got elected by claiming Hillary was the hothead who would get us into a war. If Trump does get us into war, he joins a proud legacy of Democrats who promised peace and delivered war, such as Wilson, Johnson, and Clinton. Now it can be a Republican tradition too! Isn’t bipartisanship great?

I’m also upset because my bunker isn’t fully stocked yet. Sort of a joke, sort of not. I hope I wake up tomorrow and cooler heads have prevailed. Peace is good, war is bad. We don’t need anyone else buried in Arlington. Right? Have a great weekend everyone.

Shares, comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image:Arlington Cemetery. Credit: Public Domain image from Snappygoat.)

PS: I’m afraid to sleep, a nightmare before the US invasion of Iraq haunts me still.

Written by unitedcats

January 3, 2020 at 9:16 pm

Posted in Iran, Iraq, Propaganda, Trump, War

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ETC

leave a comment »

The year end holiday season is upon us. This will be my last post until after the holidays barring some news event I feel compelled to blog about. Knock on wood, it would be nice to go a week or two without rending my garments. And in that vein of thinking, I wrote a list of garment rending topics to quickly touch on in this post. And now, after a beer and fondue party, I will attempt to expound on them. The cheese fondue course was followed by a chocolate fondue course, so I am feeling no pain on multiple levels.

Australian fires. Yes, Australia is on fire. Two sad truths here, the first being that outside of Antarctica, Australia is the continent least suited to western style civilization, and such is making it even less habitable. Jerrod Diamond is where I got this nugget, so likely lots of codicils. Still, people have been living there for forty thousand years or more, and never found anything better than hunting and gathering. (Which is actually an underrated lifestyle.) And now, all the fires. Welcome to global warming, sad truth number two, which is exacerbating and increasing the droughts and such that are exploding the drier parts of the world. In our lifetime global warming is going to make large portions of the planet essentially uninhabitable, but we can’t do anything about it because it would hurt the economy. Go figure.

Generational conflict. So, yeah, some people are blaming the boomers for the state of the world. I chatted with one today. Yeh, right. (As an aside, love the English language, where a double positive can be a negative.) Give me a break in other words. Saying the boomers made the world today is like saying people in the past made the world we live in. Hardly a new or helpful observation. The world we live in is a mess, but hardly because a single generation screwed it up. Divide and distract is what the people running the world want us to do, so welcome to generational conflict. It’s not the hyper-rich families and corporations who have been running the world for centuries who screwed us over, oh no. It’s our parents and grandparents! A suggested fun topic with family over holiday meals.

And speaking of crazy pointless controversy, Merry Christmas! Apparently it’s a sin now in some quarters to say anything other than “Merry Christmas.” News flash, Christianity doesn’t own the calendar. So no one is required to say “Merry Christmas!,” nor is Christianity insulted in some way if one says otherwise. And if someone does get their knickers in a twist because someone wished them happy holidays or what not, it’s their problem. People wishing other people a good time is a good thing, duh.

This faux controversy is just a sign that the times have changed. When I was a kid, Christmas was treated essentially as a universal. It was just assumed and promoted in a million movies and TV shows that Christmas was an integral part of America, and the fact that millions of Americans didn’t celebrate Christmas was simply ignored. And we’re talking white, Jesus centered, heteronormative Christmas to boot. And now a lot of people would rather not be obliged to celebrate, or they want to celebrate it in their own way. None of which affects Christians who want to celebrate Christmas in any way, but lots of them like to pretend it does. And thus the faux “War on Christmas” was invented. Myself, I try to be polite to people in public. It’s worked so far, I recommend it.

Lastly. The 1914 Christmas truce, image above. World War One started in August 1914, And by Christmas the western front (where Germany was fighting France and England) was a line of opposing trenches from Switzerland to the Atlantic Ocean. 440 mi (700 km,) millions of men facing each other in a bloody struggle that had already killed half a million. There had never been a war like it. And on Christmas day in numerous places on the opposing trench lines spontaneous cease fires broke out. In many cases just so the dead could be retrieved. In many cases though the soldiers fraternized, even famously playing a bit of informal soccer. One of those historical events that was long forgotten, now resurrected by the magic of the Interwebs. All dead now, such is history.

And shamed by this spontaneous outbreak of goodwill between enemies, the leaders of both sides sat down and negotiated a peaceful end to one of history’s stupidest conflicts. Snort. No, they issued orders making damn sure something like this didn’t happen again, and on subsequent Christmas days the slaughter continued unabated. Phew, close one.

Happy Holidays all, have a great week whatever you are doing or celebrating.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: World War One newspaper front page. Credit:The Daily Mirror. I guess they’re still around, but I believe this image is now Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 23, 2019 at 7:41 pm

SPACE FORCE, THE FINAL BOONDOGGLE

leave a comment »

I had an interesting experience this morning. A Jew and a strong atheist mansplained to me that I was not a Christian. It was a remarkable and sad experience. Remarkable, because I am a Christian, but since I don’t fit their definition of Christian, that magically makes me not a Christian. No different than someone telling me what my gender or sexual preferences are. Things that I would know. And they both consider themselves open minded people. When one insists that other people conform to their world view, that’s not open minded. A failing not limited to evangelicals and MRAs.

Also today, I had to lift a fifty pound sack and haul it around. It was surprisingly easy, I wasn’t sure why. It’s not like I have been lifting weights. I then realized, oh, right, I’m not running around with forty extra pounds strapped to my waist anymore. Somehow I think these two items are related somehow. Probably because I am still getting rid of stuff, and still trying to separate my social beliefs from my evidence based beliefs. It’s all tied together. At least for me a cluttered life is a cluttered mind.

Washington continues to career along. As the above illustration shows, papers which in almost any other country, especially parliamentary democracies, would bring down the government, are flying pretty much under the radar here. Many of us figured out long ago that Afghanistan was a mess and short of sending in hundreds of thousands of occupation troops, or nuking it into a parking lot, either of which have significant downsides and would likely create worse problems, nothing like victory was possible. A trillion dollars and frightening amounts of blood and the country is more of a mess than ever. Afghanistan too. In Washington though, no one is ever wrong, and no one is man enough to admit failure, so 18 years on our war of choice on the other side of the world drags on. Made and making a tiny handful of Americans even more obscenely rich, it’s not like that trillion dollars was invested in Afghanistan. Jesus wept.

Also in Washington, Congress funded another bloated Pentagon budget, including Trump’s “Space Force.” Since the Space Force is yet another  vehicle to transfer more taxpayer money upwards, I guess it’s appropriate. Sigh. I sigh a lot lately, when I’m not screaming in dismay. We already have too many branches of military service, adding another just increases the expense, internal politicking, and waste in the military. Not even mentioning the fantastic impetus to global arms race a space force will engendre. It’s pretty clear this is an ego and vanity driven idea too, since the military is against it for one. And under international law there are extreme limitations on military operations in space, so it’s not even clear what such a force would do. Details, details I guess.

To paraphrase, a trillion here and a trillion there, and pretty soon we’re talking about real money. Sigh. At the core that’s the second main reason why our post World War Two spending is insane. Our country’s rotten infrastructure, education, and health care is embarrassing for the so called greatest country on Earth. In those respects we were once the envy of the world. And this is all because trillions of dollars have been spent on a military bloated beyond reason and endless colonial wars. Well, and trillions in tax breaks for the rich and corporate America.

Lastly, I’m having health issues, so some posts are going to be delayed from time to time. Sometimes scheduled writing time turns into miserable suffering time. And since I’m not really from California, I don’t feel compelled to share any more on that topic. Don’t worry younger readers, you’re not missing out. If you get old you too will spend half your time listening to friends’ medical complaints. The other half suffering your own. Old age is its own worst enemy.

Have a great weekend everyone. Comments, questions, and as ever, shares appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Facebook meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. Will attribute or remove as needed  if so informed.)

Written by unitedcats

December 13, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Posted in afghanistan, Personal, Trump, War

ON THIS DAY: APOLLO 17, SPINNING PRINCES, AND FATAL FALLING SOUP KETTLES

leave a comment »

On December 11, 1972, 47 years ago today, humans landed on the Moon for the last time. Two men of course, women were still pretty much at the back of the bus then, Eugene Cernan and  Harrison Schmitt. Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans remained in orbit, as well as five mice. Upon return to Earth they were all dissected, their consolation prize being they got to go down in history. The mice were dissected, not the men.

Of the three men, only one is still alive. Evans died young of a heart attack in 1990. RIP. The other two got to live lives as minor celebrities, morphing into their later years spent punching Moon landing deniers. Cernan passed in 2017, but at 84 Schmitt is still with us, faithfully carrying water for the anti-global warming crowd. Sigh. The gentle reader can be forgiven for any thoughts this may inspire. Schmidt claims global warming is all a hoax to increase the government’s size and control over Americans. Louder sigh. Dude, they don’t need a hoax to do that, our ruling parties have been doing both in spades for decades, no excuse asked for or given.

Moving right along, mission highlights are about as exciting as one could expect on a lifeless airless rock. Longest time out of the lander, furthest distance travelled on the surface, the greatest distance away from the lander. They utilized the LRV (Lunar Roving Vehicle) for these. They collected a lot of rocks and gravel. They also partially solved the light flash phenomena reported by previous lunar explorers, astronauts reported seeing flashes or streaks of light averaging 2 per minute while inbound, outbound, and in lunar orbit. Most noticeable when they were lights out and falling asleep. One of the astronauts on this mission always wore a cosmic ray detector, and thus as suspected, turns out the flashes were caused by cosmic rays. How, exactly, these cause visual phenomena is still unknown.

As for the Moon landing hoax people, they’re still going strong. I’m sure them and the flat Earthers have joint conventions now. I’ve pointed out the absurdity of both “theories” before, nothing new to add. Social beliefs, and pretty sure these fall into that category, are strongly resistant to logical argument. I’ll just relist this link for those that want to delve deeper into this silliness. The moon landing hoax no doubt inspired by this movie, notable for co-starring O.J. Simpson. In the movie he’s a murderee, not a murderer.

Well, that’s about all I can extract from this topic. What else happened on this day? In 1282 the Battle of Orewin Bridge where England crushed the last formal resistance to English rule in Wales. The Welsh leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, wasn’t at the battle. One of the reasons it was lost. Worse, he arrived back at the battle scene just in time to be killed. He was the first and last Welsh Prince of Wales. No doubt he is spinning in his grave about Prince Cha Cha holding his office now.

In 1602 according to legend a cook in Geneva noticed armed men scaling the city’s walls. Thinking quickly, she dumped a pot of boiling vegetable soup on them, causing a commotion and helping to rouse the town. The falling pot itself killed one man. So this was the only known battle in history where the first salvo was boiling soup. Legends aside, the Catholic Duke of Savoy had sent a force to launch a surprise attack on the Protestant city. Roused by the soup commotion, the citizens of Geneva sallied forth and fighting side by side with the town militia, defeated the attackers. A number of prisoners were taken, several of them high born. To their dismay, since the Duke of savoy had repeatedly pledged peace with Geneva, they were summarily hung as bandits the next day. And until this day the city celebrates the festival of L’Escalade on this date. (Escalade is the scaling of defensive walls.)

And finally, on this day in 1962, Arthur Lucas became the last person to be executed in Canada. And with the abolition of the death penalty, major crimes spiralled out of control in Canada. Because we all know that fear of harsh punishment is the only thing keeping us in line. Snort. That was sarcasm. The death penalty is to satisfy blood lust, it’s deterrent effect is minimal to non-existent. Hell, a well publicized execution breifly raises the murder and suicide rate. Go figure. When informed that he would be the last person to be executed in Canada, Lucas said “Some consolation.”

As ever, comments, suggestions, and shares are appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Eugene Cernan driving the LRV. Credit: NASA, as such it’s free to use as long as it doesn’t imply sponsorship by NASA. No such sponsorship is meant or implied. Photo details here.)

Written by unitedcats

December 11, 2019 at 12:15 pm

AVOID ACTIVE VOLCANOES AND OTHER STUFF

leave a comment »

It snowed again. Only a few inches. And powdery fluffy snow, so it was a breeze to shovel. An evil frigid breeze. When I came inside I could warm my hands in the deep freeze. I did manage to make it on foot to the library/Post Office/bank without suffering from frostbite, but that’s it for today. Today, random blogging. Well, not that random, it would take billions of monkeys eons to randomly type this post. I digress.

So, a volcano killed some tourists in New Zealand. Hopefully it was quick, what a way to go. Explosions can be handy that way, “One second, there you is, the next, where is you?” RIP, and may their friends and family find comfort and solace. I guess it was what they call a phreatic eruption as opposed to the more familiar types of volcanic eruptions. That’s where ground water gets hot enough to flash into steam, boom. I visited some once, quite impressive. This would explain why the eruption struck without warning, a slow rise in underground water temperature is probably tricky to monitor. It’s not  exactly an environment where one can drill down and install sensors.

This tragedy also highlights the disparity of the human condition on Earth. (Why yes, I do point that out a lot.) When westerners are killed by volcanoes, they were often tourists. Sometimes, as in this case, paying for the experience of being on a volcano. When third worlders die on volcanoes, it’s often because they were forced by circumstance to farm the fertile (but dangerous) slopes of volcanoes. And yes, there are far more of the latter dead people than the former. Stuff like this puzzles alien anthropologists to no end I am sure. Hell, I’m puzzled.

Speaking of puzzling, they found a man whose sperm’s DNA is entirely from his bone marrow donor. That’s right, if he fathers a child, another man will be the child’s genetic father. In fact the donor’s DNA has shown up in various parts of his body. Forensic scientists aren’t happy about this, this is going to complicate using DNA to solve crimes. Granted there’s already lots of ways extraneous DNA can get into samples, but still, one more thing to watch out for. Paternity cases could be complicated too, one more fly in the ointment. The takeaway, if one is a man who wants to father children, they should get their bone marrow from a close relative, preferably a twin sibling.

And as an aside to that, ‘they’ was just announced as Mirriam-webster’s word of the year. No doubt Rush Limbaufgh and other folks whose identity is all wrapped up in Biblical gender roles are having conniptions de merde. I really wish these people would get over themselves, but like their implacable efforts to take back control of women’s bodies, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Waaaay too much money and political influence to be had by promoting the Bible as an answer to all questions. Ask Mr Trump, he didn’t get elected by fanatic intellectual cultists. Myself, I don’t give other people’s genitals a second thought, I’ll call a person by whatever name and pronouns they prefer. Whatever floats their boat, someone else eating a donut doesn’t compromise my diet.

On the topic of DNA, I am seeing a lot of ads on Facebook about “get your DNA tested and we’ll tell you what kind of foods to eat!” Wow, it sounds all sciency and shit, who can resist? Hopefully anyone with a functional brain and a lick of common sense. Just another way for slick marketers to cash in on the DNA testing racket. In other words, it’s hogwash, there’s no scientific evidence that one’s DNA determines their optimal diet. If there ever is any such evidence, one’s doctor is the person to talk to about it. Not some shyster company marketing DNA testing for whatever reason.

In some positive news, Russia and Ukraine have come to an agreement over the Donbas in Eastern Ukraine. This is a part of Ukraine with a large Russian population that revolted in 2014 when Ukrainian nationalists seized power in Ukraine. One of the many ugly legacies of the ill starred Stalinist Soviet Empire, which moved borders and people around willy nilly. In any event, this is a good thing, it’s hard to see how violence will help this situation. In any event this is a good start, a truce, prisoner exchange, and further talks scheduled. If both sides negotiate in good faith, issues like this can and have been resolved.

And yes, still working on my response to Ukraine comment post. By the same token as the above paragraph, it’s only through engagement with people who think differently that accommodation can be made. That’s why I avoid the dripping anti-whoever <cough> trump <cough> vituperative that characterizes the anti Rush Limbaugh crowd. Hell, there’s no need, the man speaks for himself.

Have a great week everyone, stay warm. Unless you’re near an active volcano, then stay cool.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: First Snow at Veneux-Nadon. Credit: Alfred Sisley 1878, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 10, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Peace, Russia, Ukraine, War, World